Study of Pro Eating-Disorder Websites Highlights Risks – Part 2 of 3

Prevalence of Pro eating-disorder sites

The prevalence of pro-eating disorder sites show the determination of this group.  According to the “2008 International Internet Trends Study” issued by Optenet, pro-ana and pro-mia sites increased by 469.42 percent between 2006 and 2007 – rising from 278 sites to 1,583. A rate of expansion that was triple that of violence-based sites, and more than six times the rate of increase of racism sites. In fact, pro-ana sites showed the largest percentage growth of the 52 categories that were evaluated by Optenet, even outpacing personal Web pages (which recorded a 455 percent increase).

These increases come in spite of a 10-year effort by search engines such as Yahoo and MSN to shut down websites that promote eating disorders. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, over 90% of these websites are open to the public.

Eating Disorder Statistics

(NOTE: Minor differences in percentages are found between various resources)

Statistics from the South Carolina Dept. of Mental Health:

  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males
  • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
  • Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
  • 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight
  • 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight

Statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated disorders:


  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting.
    • Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.5
    • 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting.
      • 22% dieted “often” or “always.”5
    • 86% report onset of eating disorder by age 20; 43% report onset between ages of 16 and 20.6
    • 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.3
    • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.17


  • An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.9
  • Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.”10
  • Among gay men, nearly 14% appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20% appeared to be anorexic.11

For Women

  • Research suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia.15
  • An estimated 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime.14
  • About 50 percent of people who have had anorexia develop bulimia or bulimic patterns.15
  • An estimated 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.14
  • An estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.14
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.18
  • The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.3
  • In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight,
    • of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.16
    • 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.12
    • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.13
    • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
    • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).

Cited Sources:

  1. Mortality in Anorexia Nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1995; 152 (7): 1073-4.
  2. Characteristics and Treatment of Patients with Chronic Eating Disorders, by Dr. Greta Noordenbox, International Journal of Eating Disorders, Volume 10: 15-29, 2002.
  3. The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” 2003.
  4. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
  5. Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209-219.
  6. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 10-year study, 2000
  7. Public Health Service’s Office in Women’s Health, Eating Disorders Information Sheet, 2000.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  9. Carlat, D.J., Camargo. Review of Bulimia Nervosa in Males. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 1997.
  10. American Psychological Association, 2001.
  11. International Journal of Eating Disorders 2002; 31: 300-308.
  12. Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, Michael Levine, USA Today, July 1998.
  13. Ibid.
  14. The National Institute of Mental Health: “Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions.” Pub No. 01-4901. Accessed Feb. 2002.
  15. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. website. Accessed Feb. 2002.
  16. Nutrition Journal. March 31, 2006.
  17. Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.
  18. The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” published September 2002, revised October 2003,


Continued in next post…


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